How Do You Prioritize Your Time?

At a School Meeting this month, Monte Blaustein, who teaches sciences and is the director of our engineering program, known on campus as IDEAS, spoke to students and faculty about how people prioritize their time. So many of us lead busy, overscheduled lives and we know it’s important to take care of certain basic needs, such as nutrition, sleep, school or work, exercise and staying connected with family and friends. However, it’s worth taking a moment to think about Mr. Blaustein’s question: What is important to you? Being more thoughtful about what is important to us can help us to prioritize the people, work, events, activities, commitments and tasks that compete for our time and attention. What follows is an excerpt from his speech.

What is important to you?  What should be important to you? Every year the amount of stuff we try to fit into each day is increasing, but the number of hours available to do these things is not.  The only option is to try and figure out what is important to you, what will make you happy – today and in the future – and what are the things you really care about.  We need to prioritize our lives, to decide what are the things that are most important to us, and then don’t worry as much about the small things. Don’t sweat the small stuff, but you should sweat the big stuff. If you know which is which you will be happier and more successful.

  • Classes – like it or not you need to learn things that you don’t already know, and until we figure out a better way, for now learning occurs in a classroom – real or virtual – and involves practicing what you learned so that it stays in your brain – we call that homework or studying.
  • Games – most of us play a sport, create works of art, act in a play or musical, or take part in one of the myriad of other things that we do for fun.  Yes, some of you may go on to make this your career, but for most people it is something we do just because we enjoy it and like spending time doing it – and just like homework, practice, practice, practice is the way you get better.
  • Eating – we do it because our bodies require nourishment – no option there.  Of course some of us enjoy a good meal, and it creates a great opportunity to relax with friends and chill for a while.
  • Social media is also a part of our lives.  I love this word. Being “social” is a good thing – humans love to be with others, to interact, and yes to connect with each other.  “Media” – this is how social is often done these days, and that is fine. How else would you get to see what your friends who don’t live close to you are doing everyday?  It is a great way to keep in touch with family and those who are not part of your everyday life.

There is one thing I have not talked about, and it is very important: Each of us needs to be aware of how others are feeling.  It is really easy to congratulate someone for getting a goal, a good grade, being selected for some position or role. We know they are happy and we respond without thinking about it. It is equally important to watch out for your friends when they are not having a good day.  They may have received a bad grade, did something that caused the team to lose the game, received bad news from home, had a fight with someone, or maybe they are just feeling sick or lonely. Letting someone know you care about them, that you sympathize with their problem, that you are sorry about what happened, and that you understand – that can be hard sometimes, but it is so very important.  Sometimes it means helping in some small way, such as getting that person a glass of water or picking up what they dropped. Sometimes it means just sitting there quietly while they tell their story, and listening to what they say.

Sometimes it means getting help from another student or an adult, especially if that bad day morphs into a second or third bad day. The most important thing is to make sure the person is not ignored and that you are sincerely trying to be caring. When you see that someone is down, think about them above yourself, and go out of your way to be kind.

I am not going to tell you what should be important for you.  Everyone has their own priorities, their own goals and objectives, and their own passions. Think about what is really important to you, what will make you happy today and tomorrow. Spend your time doing what is important to you, and keep that in mind when you prioritize your time.